Pfaffia glomerata (Spreng) Pedersen (Amaranthaceae) and other species in this genus, popularly known as “Brazilian ginseng,” have been marketed and used for many years in folk medicine for the treatment of various diseases (1). In January 2012, samples of P. glomerata with leaf spots were collected in the city of Viçosa, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Two samples were deposited in the herbarium at the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (VIC31849 and VIC31851). The diseased leaves were examined using a stereomicroscope (75×). The fungal structures were scraped with a scalpel from the plant surface and mounted in lactophenol. Thirty measurements of all of the relevant morphological characters were obtained using light microscopy for the identification of the species. To confirm the identification, fungal DNA from single-spore pure culture was isolated from the diseased leaves on PDA, and the DNA was amplified using primers ITS1 and ITS4 for the ITS region (GenBank Accession No. JQ990331) and LR0R and LR5 for partial 28S rDNA (Accession No. JQ990330). Sequencing was performed by Macrogen, Korea. The symptoms observed were leaf spots, subcircular, usually up to 6 mm diameter, initially yellowish becoming brown to reddish, margin indefinite, with the formation of fungal structures, hypophyllous, white, scattered, or grouped. Conidiophores were very numerous in dense subsynnematal fascicles, moderately brown at the base but for most of the length subhyaline, 42.5 to 350 × 2.5 to 3.5 μm, showing conidial scars. Conidia formed singly, 22.5 to 77.5 × 5 to 6 μm, hyaline, hilum slightly thickened, and refractive. These characteristics show that the fungus found on P. glomerata matched well with the description of Cercosporella pfaffiae (2). Koch's postulates were fulfilled by inoculation of 6-mm-diameter PDA plugs with the isolate mycelia on leaves of P. glomerata. Six plants were inoculated with the isolate and six plants were inoculated with an isolate-free agar plug. Inoculated plants were maintained in a moist chamber for 24 hours and subsequently in a greenhouse at 26°C. Leaf spot was observed in inoculated plants 15 days after inoculation, and symptoms were similar to those in the field. All non-inoculated plants remained healthy. A Megablast search of the NCBI GenBank nucleotide sequence database using the ITS sequence retrieved C. virgaureae as the closest match [GenBank GU214658; Identity = 458/476 (96%), Gaps = 2/476 (0%)]. To confirm the identification, Bayesian inference analyses were employed, and the tree was deposited in TreeBASE (Study S12680). The analysis placed our isolate in the same clade with the type species of Cercosporella. Molecular studies and morphological characteristics confirm our identification. C. pfaffiae has been previously reported in P. iresinoides (H.B.K.) Spreng. in Trinidad and Gomphrena glomerata L. in Argentina (2). To our knowledge, this is the first report of C. pfaffiae causing disease in P. glomerata in Brazil and it may become a serious problem for some medicinal plant growers, due to the severity of the disease and the lack of chemical products for this pathogen.
References: (1) Neto et al. J. Ethnopharmacol. 96:87, 2005. (2) U. Braun. A Monograph of Cercosporella, Ramularia and Allied Genera (Phytopathogenic Hyphomycetes). Eching bei Müchen, IHW-Verlage. Vol. 1, p. 68, 1995.